Armenia and Azerbaijan have been embroiled in a longstanding conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, and for years, negotiations have involved mediators from Russia, the United States, and European powers. However, recent developments have seen the two countries increasingly engaging in one-to-one negotiations.
In December, an unprecedented bilateral agreement was reached for the exchange of prisoners and Armenia’s support for Azerbaijan’s bid to host the COP29 climate conference. Bilateral meetings at the senior level have continued, and diplomats are exchanging drafts of a peace agreement and holding occasional meetings at the Armenia-Azerbaijan border.
At the same time, Western involvement in the negotiations has been put on hold, with Azerbaijan refusing meetings with U.S. and European diplomats. President Ilham Aliyev has emphasized the need for the two countries to solve their differences on their own, stating, “This is an issue between our two countries, and we have to solve it ourselves.”
Armenia, however, has expressed concerns that going it alone could leave them vulnerable to a much stronger Azerbaijan, which has hinted at using force to impose its will if Armenia doesn’t comply with its demands. Armenian officials argue that talking without mediators is not significant and that negotiations should continue based on certain principles.
The move to bilateral talks represents a tactic in Azerbaijan’s hardball negotiating strategy, with Armenia concerned about the lack of external protection in case Azerbaijan abrogates a peace agreement. Despite these concerns, Armenia appears willing to sign a deal with Azerbaijan, partly for domestic political purposes to show that it is bringing peace despite losing Nagorno-Karabakh.
Given the shift to bilateral talks, Armenia and Azerbaijan face various critical issues to resolve, including border demarcation, the fate of small enclaves, and the management of new transportation links to Azerbaijan’s exclave of Naxcivan. The framework agreement being negotiated aims to serve as a statement of principles and is expected to be around two to three pages with 15 to 20 points.
While both sides continue to exchange draft agreements, recent signals from Baku, including statements regarding territorial claims, have dampened hopes in Armenia about signing any agreement soon. Foreign diplomats following the process remain cautiously optimistic, hoping that the European and U.S. mediation may resume after the Azerbaijani elections.
However, analysts are skeptical about the multilateral process resuming, with the bilateral talks currently being the main process at play. The outcome of the negotiations remains uncertain, but both Armenia and Azerbaijan are working towards resolving their differences without the involvement of external actors.
Overall, the shift to bilateral negotiations represents a significant development in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and the international community continues to monitor the situation to seek a peaceful resolution.